When Does Life Begin?

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In early 2019, many Americans watched in horror as legislators proposed what were labeled extreme abortion bills.

A proposed bill in Virginia would allow a woman to request an abortion up to and through her labor at full gestation if it could be shown the pregnancy impaired her mental or physical health. In New York, a bill was passed that allows a woman to have an abortion on demand up until the time of the child’s birth. As the governor signed this bill into law, lawmakers applauded and cheered. That evening the Empire State Building glowed pink to celebrate this “victory” for women’s rights.

While certain legislators rejoiced, even many abortion supporters were appalled at this legislation, believing it went too far. The idea of killing a baby at full term was too grotesque and abhorrent, even for some who support abortion earlier in the timeline of a pregnancy. When dealing with late-term abortions, the pro-abortion lobby cannot hide behind euphemisms such as blob of cells, tissue, pregnancy, or even the mother’s body. At 40 weeks gestational age, the baby looks unmistakably like a baby.

But what about a baby at fertilization? He or she does not look like a baby and, to our knowledge, cannot feel pain or realize that he or she even exists. That baby is just a single cell. Is it still heinous to end the life of that child? What about a baby at four weeks gestational age? Or six? Or twelve? When does human life really begin?

Reproductive science shows that at the moment of fertilization, when the sperm meets the egg, all of the information that builds that person is present. No new information is added. That fertilized egg, known as a fertilized ovum, is a human being with a unique combination of information never before seen in earth’s history.

Fertilization

Photo ©THIERRY BERROD, MONA LISA PRODUCTION/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Sperm cells attempt to fertilize a human egg cell. If successful, a life begins.

Science can tell us that much, but can it answer the question of when life begins? Some say yes, others disagree. But God’s Word provides clarity. Scripture says that all human beings are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that the unborn are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), known by God from before their conception (Jeremiah 1:5). The Bible makes no distinction between unborn human life and human life that has passed through the birth canal. Both are human in God’s eyes and therefore stamped with his own image.

Is killing a fertilized human egg murder? Absolutely. Life begins at the moment of fertilization. From that instant, a unique human being, created in God’s image, has begun his or her life. Size and stage of development do not determine life’s value. God does, and he values life from the very beginning.

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
Avery Foley is a writer and speaker with Answers in Genesis. She is a cohost on Answers News, a twice-weekly live commentary on culture and science news. She holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Liberty University and a master’s degree in theological studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

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